In the Handbook of Leadership Theory and Practice put out by Harvard Business School, chapter authors Podolny, Khurana, and Besharov discuss at length the challenges associated with separating the concepts of meaning and leadership and focusing primarily on the relationship of leadership and performance. In a drive toward performance (an overall good emphasis), leadership scholars and practitioners often have lost sight of the importance of meaning in leadership and work. A clear sense of the meaningfulness of work is vital for organizational members. Understanding purpose in leadership and work contributes to job satisfaction and an authentic belief that the work one does matters and is meaningful.
Providing this sense of meaning is a primary responsibility of leadership. While other organizational roles and responsibilities may connect with issues of performance more explicitly, as Podolny and his co-authors assert, this is not the only issue to address or question to answer. Performance and purpose are both essential for employees. People should be able to connect their actions in work to their ideals in life at a metaphysical level. People should also be able to connect their actions at work to their lives at a community and relational level. Leaders help to provide a context within which these meaning-connections may be made. I desire to provide this type of context for those with whom I work. I desire that I and my colleagues feel that our work matters, and is not simply a way to draw a paycheck. I want to have a focus on both getting things done (performance) but also going about this work in a way that taps into the threads of meaning and purpose in our lives.
How do you lead and manage with purpose? How do you help your people connect their work with meaning and purpose in their lives?